Given this information, what can you do with it? You may not be severely overweight but you may have some characteristics of a certain "overeater". No matter if you are a compulsive eater or an emotional eater, controlling and conquering cravings is very important. Six tips on controlling cravings are summarized below:
1. Get moving
Research has shown that exercise can help blunt genetic obesity tendencies, improve how the brain uses sugar, reduce cravings and overcome food addiction, handle stress, helps you make better food choices, and improve brain health overall.
2. Keep blood sugar levels balanced
Low blood sugar levels are associated with lower brain activity and more cravings. Here are some tips for keeping your blood sugar levels even throughout the day:
- Eat a nutritious breakfast every day
- Eat cinnamon, found to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes
- Ingest smaller meals throughout the day
- Stay away from simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (processed/boxed foods- if it won't spoil if left out on the counter overnight, it's likely processed)
3. Decrease the use of artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can be up to 600 times sweeter than sugar and may activate the appetite centers of the brain, making you crave even more food and more sugar.
4. Manage Stress
Chronic stress has been implicated in obesity, as well as addiction, anxiety and depressive disorders, and cancer. Consider deep breathing, meditation, and hypnosis to combat stress.
5. Get adequate sleep
Science has shown that the less sleep you get, the more cravings you'll have; the more calories you eat, the more belly fat you'll have and the higher your BMI (body mass index) will be.
6. Find out about hidden food allergies
Food allergies can trigger cravings. If you have an allergy to wheat gluten or milk and you eat wheat or dairy products, the allergy can reduce blood flow to your brain and impair your judgement. Subtle but important food allergies can result in brain inflammation that contributes to poor brain health.
To identify food allergies, eliminate dairy, wheat, sugar, food additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings or colors from your diet for 1-2 months. Then, slowly reintroduce these items one at a time every 3-4 days to determine whether a new item triggers problems.When you reintroduce a food, eat it at least two or three times in a day for 3 days to see if you notice a reaction. Stop immediately if you do. Symptoms vary greatly but may include brain fog, difficulty remembering, mood issues (anxiety, depression and anger), nasal congestion, headaches, sleep problems, joint aches, muscle aches, pain, fatigue, skin changes, and changes in digestion.
Food allergy testing is also available in our office. The test results show you which foods you're severely allergic to (avoid at all costs), moderately allergic to (eat sparingly if you must), and mildly allergic to (be aware how frequently you eat these foods and limit your consumption). A mild food allergy, if not controlled or addressed, can escalate into a moderate or severe food allergy.
Hopefully this information helps you throughout this holiday season (and beyond!). Find out which "craving conqueror" works best for you and stick with it. Consistency and routine turns conscious decisions into habits. How much easier would it be if reaching for the veggies at the next holiday party was your instinct rather than the cookies and creme puffs?
Reference: Monroe, Mary. "It's All in the Brain: Unlocking the Secrets of Overeating With Neuroscience."IDEA Fitness Journal November-December (2011): 38-46. Print.